The 1955 Rhodesian Swamp-Rover

In the 1950’s this Swamp Skipper, named ‘Mudlark’ was designed and built by Peter Parton in Abercorn, now called Mbala, a town on the border between Zambia and Tanzania. It was powered by two Land-Rover Series 1 engines coupled to two gearboxes.

Parton built two of these Swamp Skippers locally and they were used to scout for locusts in an area that was often plagued by these harvest eating insects. After spotting the locusts, these were exterminated with Dieldrin, an insecticide produced by Shell.

Early days

Before the Swamp Skippers came into service locust spotting and extermination was done with standard Series 1 vehicles. In 1952 for example the International Red Locust Control Service (IRLCS) wrapped a Series 1 in a lorry-sheet to cross the lake. They even performed this method with a heavier 107 inch Land-Rover.

The Land-Rover was already a very capable vehicle in the early fifties, but wet season conditions in the Abercorn area would often proof too hard for the standard cars. On the image above, taken from a Swamp Skipper, a camp of locust scouts is visible, the Land-Rover marooned and inextricable. In 1955 the IRLCS had 41 (!) Land-Rovers to its disposal.

The Swamp Skipper leaves four feet wide tracks when driving from the scouting camp.

The current whereabouts of the two Swamp Skippers built by Peter Parton are unknown. I have made enquiries about their fate in the Mbala region and if any news shows up, this post will be updated.

Special thanks to Colin Carlin of Abercornucopia for providing some of these images.

Ronald Janus
De Autoboerderij

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